Congratulations! You’ve come to the end of the tooth alignment process and you’re ready to show off your new, perfect smile. Your mouth is finally free! Well, almost. It’s time for you to enter the next phase, called retention. This period of time allows your teeth to adjust to their newfound freedom without shifting wildly out of place. For this period to be successful, you’ll need a dental retainer. Let’s explore the three main types of retainers and their benefits so that you (and your orthodontist) can choose the best option for you.

Permanent Retainers

You may have heard your orthodontist refer to these as lingual wire, bonded wire, or fixed wire retainers. These are the least visible to others because they are permanently fixed to the backs of your teeth. The bottom wires are bonded to the upper four front teeth and the lower six front teeth — your orthodontist can help you decide if you should have one or both.


Impossible to misplace — If you're a forgetful person and are worried that you would misplace a removable retainer, permanent dental retainers might be the best option.

Cleaned with ordinary methods — They are low maintenance because they get cleaned whenever you brush and floss your teeth.

Not visible — Since they are on the backs of your teeth, they are fairly unnoticeable — no more wires blocking your beautiful smile!


Potentially uncomfortable — For some, permanent dental retainers can cause tongue irritation as it adjusts to the foreign entity in your mouth.

Costly — Of the three retainer options, permanent retainers are the most expensive.

Not technically a permanent fix — Despite the fact that “permanent” is in the name, even these retainers will wear out and need to be replaced at least every three years.

Prone to trapping plaque — Plaque buildup can be a serious problem if you don’t maintain excellent oral hygiene.

Hawley Retainers

The Hawley design is probably the image that comes to mind when you hear the word “retainer.” They are often referred to as wire retainers because, as the name suggests, they are made out of wire and a molded arch that is generally plastic or acrylic.


Familiar — The Hawley retainer has been in use for decades and is still frequently recommended by orthodontists.

Customized to you —The retainer's plastic base is specifically molded to your mouth, making it comfortable and easy to remove.

Simple to maintain — The fact that it’s removable makes it easy to give it a thorough cleaning.


Visible — It can be frustrating to some people that they just got wire braces removed only to be given a wire dental retainer to maintain tooth alignment. If you want a more subtle style, the Hawley might not be for you.

Not cheap — While not as expensive as permanent retainers, Hawley retainers can still be costly.

Prone to wear — The plastic in Hawley dental retainers does get worn out and even begin to smell and taste foul over time. Like all removable retainers, you will need a replacement when they reach this point.

Possible to misplace — Some people have trouble keeping track of removable retainers, or committing to the proper level of maintenance. Choose the option that best fits your lifestyle and tendencies.

Clear Retainers

If you want a retainer that’s practically invisible, clear retainers are the way to go! Essix retainers (as they are sometimes called) are made of clear plastic molded specifically to your teeth. A more modern alternative to Hawley retainers became popular with the advent of Invisalign, the first invisible option for teeth alignment.


Invisible — Since the plastic mold is clear, this is the most subtle retainer option aside from fixed wires.

Cost-efficient — Of the three options, the clear retainer is the most affordable!

Customized to you — Like Hawley retainers, the plastic is customized for your teeth and can be removed at any time for cleaning.

Convenient to get — With Retainers Direct, you can get custom-fitted clear retainers sent to your home without even having to go back to the orthodontist.

Dual-purpose — Clear dental retainers from Retainers Direct can also be used as whitening trays to get professional-grade teeth whitening at home.


Prone to wear — Invisible retainers can wear out faster than the other options. If you grind your teeth, clear retainers might not last long for you. Even if you don’t grind your teeth, you will still need to replace your plastic retainer occasionally because it can become discolored, acquire an odor or become loose due to plastic fatigue (gradual stretching or “relaxing”).

TIPTo make getting a replacement retainer as quick and easy as possible, Retainers Direct digitally saves the mold of your teeth in our database, meaning we can create a new retainer for you without going through the hassle of getting a new impression.

Potentially hard to clean — Since they are an exact mold of your teeth, it can be tricky to clean all the nooks and crannies. Most people brush their retainers with their regular toothbrush, but doing so can cause small abrasions in the plastic that bacteria can live in.

TIPThe best way to keep your retainer clean is with our alightener foam. The added bonus of alightener foam is that it cleans your retainer while also whitening your teeth!

Possible to misplace — As stated above, be wary of removable retainers if you have a tendency to misplace things. You should also be careful not to leave clear retainers in extremely hot places in direct sunlight (like in your car) because the plastic could potentially warp or melt, leaving you in need of a replacement.

All things considered, clear retainers are the best choice for many people due to their affordability, convenience and near invisibility.

Ready to try clear retainers? Retainers Direct can help!

Invisible retainers from Retainers Direct can be custom fitted to your teeth from the comfort of your own home — no need to schedule yet another office appointment with your orthodontist. Our materials and products are the same ones you’d get if you visited an orthodontist office in person; plus, all of our clear retainers are made under the supervision of a board-certified orthodontist. There’s no disadvantage to buying retainers online!

After you’ve sent us back your impression kit, we will create a perfect mold of your teeth and send you your completed dental retainer. On top of being delivered directly to you, our retainers are also some of the most affordable on the market! Plus, we will save the mold of your teeth so that, should you need a replacement in the future, we can send one your way ASAP.